Following her recovery from muscle loss after a recent bout of dengue, Indian boxer MC Mary Kom is raring to compete in her first tournament in a year. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the six-time world champion trained at home in 2020 and joined the national camp for two weeks in Bengaluru last month after recovering from dengue. 

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At Spain’s Boxam International tournament next week, the 37-year-old will return to the ring for the first time since sealing her berth for the Tokyo Olympics at the Asian Qualifiers in Jordan last year. 

“I was scared (of travelling) and I will still be very cautious and concerned but then how long can you go on fearing? The cycle has to stop at some point,” Mary Kom told PTI in an interview. 

“One just has to be sensible to avoid the virus and I am trying my best to be that, wearing masks, maintaining personal hygiene like always. But being scared of it, like I was for a long time, perhaps that should not happen,” she said, in reference to her previously stated reluctance to travel abroad amid the pandemic. 

The tournament will be held in Spain’s Castellon from March 1 to 7. Mary Kom is expected to leave with the Indian contingent, including eight other Olympic-bound boxers, next week. 

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“My body feels good. Like everyone, I also had a rough 2020. The dengue (in December) wreaked havoc. I lost a lot of muscle because of it and my weight had shot up drastically. I was about 57-59 till last month,” she said. 

“But all it took was 15 days of regimented training (in Bengaluru national camp) and now I am back to my usual weight of 51-52, the muscles are also in shape. I think I am good to go, rest you can ask my coaches for who knows, I could be bragging,” she added. 

Bengaluru’s Inspire Institute of Sports, which is in collaboration with the Boxing Federation of India, now includes sparring, which had been barred since the start of the pandemic. 

“That has been a huge relief. It is done in groups and everyone is tested, so the risk has been majorly taken care of,” Mary Kom said. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently cancelled the boxing’s world qualifiers because of the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Mary Kom, who is an athlete ambassador of the IOC task force which is handling boxing’s qualification process and the main event for the Games, said it was a decision based on practical issues despite the many disappointments it is bound to cause.

“We all want things to go back to normal but at the same time, there are challenges too and this decision is a result of that. Even if I had opposed, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

“All I can say is that those who qualified when the competitions were on, they got lucky.”

Speaking about the Games in July-August, Mary Kom said she knows the expectations from her and is ready for the challenge too even though she would be up against much younger competition.

“You know, when I joined the camp in Bengaluru, I was still the fastest among all. So, whatever happened to all that talk about being faster than me, better than me.

“I know it won’t be easy in Tokyo and it has never been easy for me. So what’s new there? I would again say what I always say when I am asked about expectations. I will give my best, the result, however, is not in my hands,” she said.

“I am in a joyful space in my life. I intend to keep it that way.”

On her ambitions after Tokyo Olympics, she said, “Let’s focus on Tokyo first. Once that is done, we will talk about what happens after that,” she signed off.